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Knowing When To Quit

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Message Larry Sakin
It appears the Baker Commission is about to release it's report on what the US should do about the increasing deterioration of Iraq. By all accounts, its recommendations won't be followed.

The report, which is a compromise agreement between the five democrats and five republicans in the group, calls for the withdrawal of some fifteen brigades although doesn't make clear exactly where those troops will go. In a recent article for The Nation, writer Robert Dreyfuss makes clear that only two members of the panel favored a redeployment of American forces to home bases.

One of the more interesting aspects of the report is its demand upon the current Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki. The Associated Press reported that: "The compromise strategy would allow the U.S. government to put al-Maliki's fragile governing coalition on notice that it must settle its own differences, tamp down sectarian violence and prepare to assume growing responsibility for the country's security." But clearly al-Maliki's influence in Iraq is crumbling, with a boycott of thirty lawmakers and five cabinet ministers loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr against al-Maliki's meeting with Bush in Jordan today. The erosion of al-Maliki's political ties portends a much more anti-American prime minister in Iraq's near future. But more importantly, The Shiite led government is becoming closely aligned with the hard line Ayatollahs which make up the Supreme Council in Iran.

The Associated Press also reports that the commission wants to engage Iran and Syria in the process to bring peace to Iraq. Fat chance that. Iran already has more sway with the fledgling Iraq government than the US has, and any attempt to use Iran as an emissary for US goals in the region means Bush ending his tirades against the potential manufacture of Iranian nuclear weapons. As for Syria, they'll demand the US stay out of its way in controlling Lebanon, something Bush sees as a threat to his allies in Israel.

So for the moment, we appear to be in Iraq for the long haul. And as the Iraqi government turns more to Iran and against the US, the more dangerous our mission there becomes. It won't just be insurgents targeting Americans; the very troops we're now training may soon be shooting at our troops as well.

Among the things Democrats and Republicans on the Baker Commission agree on is that a complete withdrawal of our troops would be recognition of failed policy. I might be wrong, but it seems to me the current civil war killing 3000 civilians a month, the crash course of the al-Maliki government, the rise of al-Sadr, and the Shiite government's cuddling up to Iran's Supreme Council, not to mention our bungling of reconstruction efforts are all pretty good indicators of our failed policy in the country. Continuing our presence there will only inflame the situation, much like our involvement in Vietnam after the U.S. bombed Cambodia.

There's a scene in the movie "Cool Hand Luke", where two prisoners on a Southern prison farm are having a boxing match. The bigger, stronger man keeps knocking the other guy down, and each time the other guy stands up again for more abuse, not knowing when to quit, until the bigger man just walks away. Bush and the Baker Commission want to believe the U.S. is the bigger man in this fight, when in reality we're the guy who keeps getting brutalized. And just like in the movie, the time will come when we'll be so disgraced by this fight, we'll find ourselves alone, face down in the mud.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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